Keeping Score

Tiger Woods Is Back To Number One: His Greatest Feat?

His collapse was stunning. So is his revival.

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David Cannon / Getty Images

Tiger Woods and Arnold Palmer after Woods won the 2013 Arnold Palmer Invitational Presented by Mastercard at Bay Hill Golf and Country Club on March 25, 2013 in Orlando, Florida.

Early on his career, Tiger Woods set a pretty lofty goal for himself: break Jack Nicklaus’ record for most major victories in a career, 18. He’s been stuck on 14 since 2008, going on five years. A scandal sunk his personal life, culminating in his divorce from Elin Nordegren, serious injuries sidelined him, and in November 2011, Woods’ ranking sank to number 58 in the world.

Was he done?

Not quite. After clinching a two-stroke victory in the Arnold Palmer Invitational, at the Bay Hill Club & Lodge in Orlando, Fla. on Monday — his third tournament win in this young 2013 season, and 77th PGA title in total — Woods regained his world number one ranking, which he lost back in October 2010. Since Woods hasn’t won a major since June 2008, it’s tempting to dismiss this milestone somewhat. Woods set majors as the standard, after all, and the Arnold Palmer is not Augusta.

(PHOTOS: Brief History of the Tiger Woods Scandal)

But Woods’ resurrection is still stunning. As Brian Murphy of Yahoo! Sports puts it:

Holy smokes. Tiger Woods just accomplished one of the greatest feats of his career.

Right next to winning four consecutive majors from 2000-01, right next to winning six consecutive U.S. Junior Amateurs and U.S. Amateurs, right next to 77 PGA Tour wins by age 37, I’ll put “The Long Climb Back” on Tiger’s all-time ledger

This new generation of golfers, players like Rory McIlroy, weren’t supposed to fear Tiger anymore. Sure, they grew up idolizing him. But they weren’t seeing him dominate on the course.

(MORE: Rory McIlroy Becomes Golf’s $250 Million Dollar Man)

Until now; Murphy points to a telling quote from American Keegan Bradley, a quote that Tiger must relish seeing:

“I feel like this is the Tiger I grew up watching.”

He’s creeping back into their heads.

Tiger’s revival required patience, and extreme discipline: he switched coaches, rearranged his swing again, pounded away at his putting. Once again, he’s the man to beat at the Masters, which starts on April 11. He might not win his fifth Green Jacket. But once again, Tiger Woods is the best in the world.

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